There was a time when trade deadline day served one of two purposes. It represented either a repository to dump expensive contracts and pending unrestricted free agents or a flea market where teams could try to find that one or two players to put them over the top.
But at the deadline this year, you actually saw real, honest-to-goodness hockey trades being made. Zack Kassian and Marc-Andre Gragnani for Cody Hodgson and Alexander Sulzer was a hockey trade. Same for Tom Gilbert for Nick Schultz and Keith Aulie for Carter Ashton.
That’s the good part of it. The downside of that is there wasn’t much sizzle to the steak and deadline day didn’t come close to living up to the expectation.
What will change, though, is that draft day, not trade deadline day, is going to become the day for blockbuster deals. We’ve seen that scenario played out over the past couple of years. Some of it has to do with parity, but even more than that, GMs around the league are finally coming to the realization that the prices paid out of desperation aren’t worth it. It seemed to be a seller’s market this year, but when the sellers set prices that are completely out of whack, the buyers are going to stay away.
But there were some deals made and a whole lot that weren’t. With that in mind, here are some of deadline day’s winners and losers:
Vancouver Canucks: Trading Cody Hodgson may come back to haunt them in a big way one day if Hodgson turns out to be one of the best two-way centermen in the league, but that wasn’t going to happen with the Canucks anyway and they got a very tough young man in Zack Kassian in return. Kassian addresses the Canucks well-documented need for toughness, but he’s also a guy who can play in the playoffs and that is a huge factor. Getting Sami Pahlsson from the Columbus Blue Jackets gives them a third-line center who can still be an effective shut-down player and don’t underestimate the possibility that Marc-Andre Gragnani could develop into an offensive force there.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Not because they didn’t trade Rick Nash, but for how ham-handed this whole disaster is being handled. Is there anyone who can explain exactly what GM Scott Howson was thinking when he professed to the world that Nash requested a trade? What was the upside in doing that? Not only will it create an impossible situation between the captain and best player and the organization by painting Nash as the villain in all of this, but it also puts the deep dsyfunctionality of the organization on display for everyone to see. Disclosing that Nash is basically fed up and wants out and dragging this imbroglio out for another couple of months is another kick in the teeth to a fan base that has endured far too many of them over the years.
Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres have been a colossal disappointment this year and have made some terrible moves, but getting a first round pick for Paul Gaustad and a fourth-rounder was more than they could have expected. Cody Hodgson will have an opportunity to get top-six minutes in the NHL with the Sabres and was already on track to become a legitimate candidate for the Calder Trophy before the move. The betting here is that he’s going to achieve stardom with the Sabres.
Nashville Predators: I realize most people are putting the Predators in the winner category, but let’s see if I have this straight. They gave up a first round pick for a guy who has never scored more than 12 goals in a season and gave up a second for another one who has scored 12 goals this season and the Predators are big winners? These are the moves they made to convince Ryan Suter and Shea Weber that they’re serious about being a Stanley Cup contender? Was the trade deadline this bereft of deals that these are the kinds that make a winner?
Tampa Bay Lightning: GM Steve Yzerman didn’t cure all his organizational ills with his moves at the deadline, but he did get the ball rolling. The Mike Commodore trade was inconsequential, but acquiring Keith Aulie and Brian Lee will at least give the Lightning two more young assets that might benefit from a change of scenery. Not long ago, Lee was the ninth overall pick in the draft and Aulie was being touted as the difference maker in the Toronto Maple Leafs deal for Dion Phaneuf. Does that mean they will turn out to be good NHL players? Not necessarily, but it was worth the risk.
Toronto Maple Leafs: GM Brian Burke resisted the urge to make a deal to get the Leafs into the playoffs, which was a good thing. But whining about how the pressure of playing in Toronto under the microscope of the trade deadline and the adverse effect it had on the players does nothing more than provide them with a built-in excuse for failure. Burke was the one who was supposed to put an end to the blue-and-white disease – whatever that is – but all he has done is foster it by creating the perception that Leaf players are under more pressure than any other athletes in professional sports. It’s hogwash, by the way.
Winnipeg Jets: GM Kevin Cheveldayoff had a great day, getting Grant Clitsome off waivers – a guy who’s under contract for another year at just $1.25 million – which allowed him to move an expiring contract of Johnny Oduya for a second and third round pick in 2013. Even though the Jets could have used Oduya for the playoff push, they did not lose sight of the big picture.
Calgary Flames: The same day people in Calgary received their season-ticket renewal packages, their GM spent the day re-signing Tim Jackman for two years and announcing that he would like to get a deal done with Olli Jokinen. Once again, Jay Feaster could have used the deadline to reshape the future of the franchise and chose not to do so. It’s obvious ownership is complicit in this, but exactly when are the Flames going to realize they’re not very good now and won’t be for a long time?
Ken Campbell is the senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com with his column. To read more from Ken and THN’s other stable of experts, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.